BATON ROUGE – Nikki Caldwell, who won national championships as both as player and an assistant coach at Tennessee and turned UCLA into a national power in just three years, has been named the head women’s basketball coach at LSU, vice chancellor and director of athletics Joe Alleva announced on Saturday.
A press conference to formally introduce Caldwell as LSU’s seventh head women’s basketball coach will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday at the Athletic Administration Building. The press conference can also been seen at www.LSUsports.net/live.
Caldwell brings to LSU the combination of outstanding in-game coaching ability with that of being a tremendous recruiter.
“Nikki is one of the best and brightest coaches in the country and LSU fans will be proud of the way she will represent this program," Alleva said. “She comes from a great pedigree having coached under two of the best in the game in Pat Summitt at Tennessee and Debbie Ryan at Virginia. She has been successful on every level -- as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach -- and she has all the qualities to bring our program to national prominence. This is a great day for LSU and our women’s basketball program."
Caldwell, widely recognized as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches during stints at Tennessee and Virginia, took over at UCLA in 2008. In three years with the Bruins, she turned around a UCLA program that had won only one NCAA Tournament game in the nine years prior to her arrival. Caldwell led the Bruins to a 72-26 overall mark, reached the NCAA Tournament twice and finished second in the Pac-10 in both 2010 and 2011. She was named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 2010 after going 25-9 overall and reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Her best season at UCLA came in 2011 as she led the Bruins to 28 victories, just one shy of the school mark of 29 set back in 1980-81. The Bruins spent the entire 2010-11 season ranked in the top 20 and they claimed the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins finished the year with just five losses, the fewest in school history during the NCAA era.
Caldwell made an immediate impact in her first season as a head coach in 2008-09, directing UCLA to a 19-12 overall record and a fourth place finish in the Pac-10.
Caldwell broke into the head coaching ranks after serving as an assistant on the staff of legendary women's coach Pat Summitt at Tennessee from 2003-08. During that time, she helped the Lady Vols capture a pair of NCAA titles in 2007 and 2008 and reach the Final Four a total of five times. The Lady Vols compiled a 195-24 mark during her six years as an assistant coach.
Caldwell joined the Tennessee staff for the 2002-03 season and became the recruiting director in the spring of 2003. Her impact was immediate as the Lady Vols signed perhaps the most prolific freshman class in the history of women's collegiate basketball in the fall of 2003. That class consisted of six 2004 high school All-Americans, including three players of the year. In 2008, Caldwell helped sign five players who went on to play in the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game.
Prior to her return as a coach at her alma mater, Caldwell served as an assistant at the University of Virginia for three seasons (2000-2002). She was responsible for recruiting, scouting, film exchange, player development, camps and monitoring academic progress of student-athletes. Virginia compiled a record of 60-36 in her three seasons in Charlottesville and advanced to the NCAA Tournament each year.
As a player at Tennessee from 1991-94, Caldwell was known as a tenacious defender with tremendous 3—point shooting ability. The Lady Vols posted a 118-13 mark during her four-year career, winning the NCAA title during her freshman season in 1991 and capturing two SEC regular season titles and a pair of SEC Tournament titles.
Caldwell still ranks among the top 10 in Tennessee history in three-point field goals made (128) and three-point shots attempted (364). She burst onto the scene as a rookie, scoring 20 points in her first collegiate game against Stanford. Caldwell earned SEC All-Freshman honors in 1991. In the 1991 NCAA title game victory over Virginia, Caldwell's defense was considered a key in the Lady Vols’ overtime win. She received the Gloria Ray Leadership Award in both her junior and senior seasons at Tennessee.
After graduating with a degree in public relations in 1994, Caldwell moved behind the microphone as a color analyst on Tennessee games for Fox Sports Net South. She went on to become the color analyst for the SEC's Game of the Week from 1995-97. Her television exposure opened the door for her to become the hostess of the sports segments for the Knoxville-based cable network show, Shop at Home (1997-98).
She then decided to return to basketball, becoming a graduate assistant for administration for Tennessee in 1998. In her 14 seasons as a collegiate player and assistant coach, Caldwell's teams compiled a record of 404-76, appeared in the NCAA Tournament each year, and claimed three national championships.
Off the court, Caldwell is a passionate crusader for breast cancer awareness. She and Tennessee assistant coach Holly Warlick have founded the non-profit organization, Champions for a Cause. Since 2007, they have raised over $250,000 through Cruisin' for a Cause, a long-haul motorcycle adventure to raise dollars and awareness for a cure for breast cancer. Caldwell and Warlick chronicled their cross-country rides on their website, www.cruisinforacause.com. In 2010, Caldwell joined the Board of Directors for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and is currently serving on the Executive Committee as Treasurer.
Caldwell was raised in Oak Ridge, Tenn., by her mother, Jean Caldwell. Caldwell has a younger sister, Simone, brother-in-law, Kirk and niece, Khayla.